My First Seventy-Six Years: Autobiography

By Hjalmar Horace Greeley Schacht | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWENTY-THREE
President of the Reichsbank

IF the 20th November constituted a milestone in the history of the stabilization of the mark by the fixing of the dollar rate at four billion two hundred million paper marks, it also brought yet another fateful occurrence. On that same day Havenstein, President of the Reichsbank, died quite unexpectedly. For the past few days he had been off colour but had not appeared to be seriously ill. He was usually hale and hearty and no one had dreamed that he would pass away so soon.

The question of his successor had for some time been smouldering in people's minds; now, with his death, it became acute.

As so frequently happens in a parliamentary democracy, the selection of an expert specialist was strongly influenced by political considerations. Havenstein was well known as an old type of official with conservative tendencies. He had always refused to take the initiative in putting an end to inflation. He had not acceded to the Government's desire that he should resign of his own accord. His own wish was that his successor should be a man of the same conservative trend as himself.

The discussion as to Havenstein's successor concentrated essentially on two individuals. One was Karl Helfferich, bank manager and representative of the Deutschnationale Partei (German National Party) in the Reichstag. The other was Hjalmar Schacht, Commissioner for National Currency and joint founder of the Deutsche Demokratische Partei (German Democratic Party). From the technical viewpoint Helfferich's former career as a professor was in his favour, coupled with the fact that he had written several scientific books and articles on the monetary system. Schacht had to his credit his recent immediate monetary success as Commissioner for National Currency. Both men could look back on a professional banking career.

At first I took no part in the discussions on the subject of Havenstein's successor. I had previously expressed the view that to have a Commissioner for National Currency as well as the President of the Reichsbank was an unnecessary nuisance and in the present situation I declared that I would willingly see the former office transferred to the new President of the Reichsbank.

-188-

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